Archive for November, 2010


Elizabeth Henderson: A CSA Mission to Taiwan

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Farmer and author Elizabeth Henderson, whose book is Sharing The Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture, recently took a trip to Taiwan to share her knowledge and expertise related to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). She wrote the following essay about her experience.

In their headlong rush to development, the people of Taiwan lost most of their connections to their farming traditions and the rural skills and wisdom of Hakka farmers or the island’s indigenous tribes. But a rediscovery may be underway. Early in the summer of this year, the government proposed to change the country’s laws on farmland, eliminating the protections for small-scale family holdings. The proposal precipitated a visceral response. Within ten days, citizens organized and thousands of people turned out on July 17 when the Taiwan Rural Front planted a rice field in front of the Presidential Palace in Taipei. It was, in the words of a Tao-Yuan planner, “a watershed moment”. Rural organizers invited me to crisscross the island giving talks and visiting farms in the hope that Community Supported Agriculture will contribute to a “rural renaissance.”

Yi-Zih in the hoop house Community Center at the future Eco Farmpark at Tucheng Farm

Sponsored by the Urban and Rural Development Department of Tao-Yuan County and Chi-Mei Community University, Kaohsiung, from October 18 through 26, 2010, I gave seven talks and led discussions about Community Supported Agriculture in four different areas of Taiwan. Yi-Zih Liou, from the Chi-Mei staff, served as my guide and translator. Two summers ago, Yi-Zih spent a month on a CSA farm near mine in New York State, speaks English well and has a solid grasp of farm realities in both countries. On this tour, I spoke with engineers on the verge of retiring, farmers, community planners and rural-urban organizers. Despite a raging typhoon, over 100 students and teachers came to my talk at the Hsin-Yang-Pin Community College. The practical questions asked at all these sessions revealed that Taiwaners are thinking seriously about how CSA might be adapted to their culture: Why are you doing CSA instead of farmers markets? How big an area do you farm? How much do you charge for shares? How does your price compare with organic vegetables in a supermarket? Why are people willing to do farm work? Do you hire workers, how much do you pay them, how many hours do they work? A farmer who currently grows rice and sweet potatoes asked how we managed 70 crops, how far the members had to travel to the farm and to distribution, how much we spent on equipment, and how much land it would take to do a year round CSA.

At the Nature Farming Club at the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Hsinchu, Chientai Chen, an engineer, shared his determination to change the condescending view the technical people he knows have of farmers. Chientai has a vision of providing training in farming skills for engineers so that they can retire to farms and give opportunities to the younger people who will help out and eventually take over. The Club holds potluck dinners and plans to start a CSA. He led a tour of their cooperative Rainbow Farm, shared by 20 families. They rent three small fields with heavy clay soils tucked in next to an 8-lane highway. I saw a bed of Asian greens and lettuces that a member of the group watered with a hose before getting down to hand weeding, a carefully trellised field of not yet ripe tomatoes in double rows on gray plastic, and a shed for shelter and storage. Nearby, a skilled farmer who teaches Chientai’s group, was growing sweet potatoes in rotation with rice.

From Hsinchu, Yi-zih and I took the high speed train to Meinung in the south. The train station area in Hsinchu was farmland until recently. There are massive new apartment buildings with many empty apartments. Amidst the new buildings the open areas look neglected and weedy, marking time till the developers come. The train was on time, clean and fast with spacious seats. Whizzing past, I glimpsed the countryside – in mountainous areas, little villages with intense plantings of palms, tea, rice paddies. On the plains and wide river basins – more rice paddies, onions, fruit. Large areas of shaded crops – Yi-zih said it was papaya. No wasted space. Houses and factories with rice fields right up next to them. A few small corn fields. A dairy – animals under sheds. A man with no protective clothing spraying a crop. A lone person hoeing. A crew harvesting. Plastic greenhouses, a field of uncovered hoops. Low tunnels. A cemetery. Poultry – also entirely under sheds. In the Meinung area – large plantings of bananas and papayas and what I thought were palm trees, but Yi-zih explained were beetle nut trees.

The visit to Meinung was intense. We met up with Tseniong (Cheng-yang Chang) the director of the Chi-Mei Community College who had made contact with me in the first place three years ago and arranged for me to give seminars via skype for people in his community. It was his idea to translate Sharing the Harvest into Chinese. He was having a meeting with college staff at a pottery that had been a tobacco drying house. The potter-chef prepared a wonderful meal of local produce for us including sweet potato greens and a dish of green tender stems that looked like thin green scallions, but tasted like a leafy green that I was told is a specialty of the area. After the meal, Sen-lan Huang, a colleague of Tseniong’s, whom everyone calls Poppy, gave us a guided tour. First he took us to his family’s house – a traditional Hakka home with a central hall where ancesters are honored. He told us that his village area had 880 inhabitants, 150 over 65. Sen-lan and others agreed that Taiwan is only 30% self-sufficient in food and most of the farms are very small with O.72 acres the average size. Sen-lan was one of the first in the area to convert to organic. When his father died, he and 2 brothers divided his land – each got 1/3 acre. The yard looked like a farm-homestead – food drying projects underway, tools, boxes, a new Taiwan-made walk-behind tractor, banana trees, Red Dragon cactuses, weeds, a small compost pile.

A younger farmer, Ku-wen Ching, who rents Sen-lan’s land, showed us two rice fields where the rice was almost ready to harvest but had been damaged by the heavy rains from a recent typhoon. I also saw raised beds with assorted bak choi, Chinese cabbages, trellised tomatoes and beans. Ku-wen rotates rice, rice, then sweet potatoes and other root crops followed by 2 years of bananas. Their land abuts huge fields owned by the Taiwan Sugar Co, now governmental, where they grow sugar cane and soy beans. The government wants to use 100 acres for a dam, bermed water storage for use by industry. Sen-lan is leading a protest.

We drove to nearby land that Ku-wen and 7 other organic farmers rent from Taiwan Sugar. They have a big roofed-over packing area with walk-in cooler, space for washing veggies, storage, tables. Their lease, just renewed, is for 2 ½ years. This farm is certified organic by one of four organizations accredited by the Taiwan government. Yi-zih said a Meinung researcher compared Taiwan standards with the US and the European Union and found the Taiwan standards higher, prohibiting copper and other common organic materials.

Ku-wen showed me an “ecological” pond, dug to provide a breeding area for dragon flies, frogs, and toads with a small pen of poultry on the bank. He complained of snails in their rice. There were 200 foot long beds with young sweet corn – transplanted 8” apart in double rows 3’ apart. In six large hoophouses (about 30’ by 150’) were beds of Asian greens. Ku-wen said that is the only way they can grow vegetables in the summer when it is very hot with torrential rains. One house had cherry tomatoes that were badly diseased – septoria? – and infested with white worms. Then more beds of sweet corn with a wire super-structure to allow the entire area to be covered with netting for the squash and melons they grow in the winter. In addition to the rice, bananas and vegetables, Ku-wen also dries daikon radishes and grows bean sprouts. He sells to local schools, at farmers markets and stores. Taiwan government policy requires that schools purchase organic vegetables for lunches once a week or at least once a month! I asked him how many hours he works – he said he makes a living, working 6 days a week, 10 – 12 hours a day, doing both growing and distribution. The farm has its own delivery truck and attractive packaging for the organic rice.

Ku-wen hires some workers: he pays long term workers 800 Taiwan dollars (TD)/day for harvesting and planting work, and 1000 – 1200 TD/day for heavier lifting. (The exchange rate fluctuates at around 30 TD per US dollar.) He said the workers belong to a laborers union and the union covers their health insurance and workers compensation. The national minimum wage is 97 TD/hour, just raised from 95. Retail workers usually earn 1200 TD/hour I learned.

Our final stop for the day was the field where the rice from the July 17 demonstration is growing. They plan to harvest it November 14 and take it back to spread out to dry on the road in front of the Presidential Palace in Taipei.

That evening, my talk – “CSA in Era of High Oil Prices”– took place at the elementary school attended by Tseniong’s children. The school has an attractive garden area and a rice paddy where the teachers and children produce enough organic rice for the lunches of the 90 children who attend. They also grow vegetables. About 60 people came to the talk, including Hsi-Yin Chen, the editor of the translated edition of Sharing the Harvest.* She announced at the gathering that Business Weekly Publications, one of the biggest publishers in Taiwan, would have the book ready in January 2011.

The next morning, Tseniong saw me off on a quick train back to the north to Tao-Yuan for a formal luncheon with the top brass of the Urban and Rural Development Department followed by a 3-hour seminar on CSA for county planners. The department struggles with planning and trying to save farmland in a rapidly developing area. Factories spring up without official permits. During the question period, a tiny woman, an active member of the Homemakers Union Consumers’ Cooperative, gave a passionate speech about the dangers of chemical residues in food and the need to buy local farm products. Like the Japanese coop on which it is modeled, the cooperative sells a wide range of products from local organic farms.

Despite the pounding rain (I later learned that mudslides from this typhoon washed a bus-load of mainland Chinese tourists over a cliff), after my talk we drove to a community center where they have services for elderly people. The neighborhood is exposed to a lot of industrial pollution, so it is not a good place to grow food. In their garden, they grow flowers. On the roof top, they are doing hydroponics, and worry that the fertilizer may contain chemicals. They serve meals cooked using the vegetables in a community kitchen in the basement and they have planted vining plants that grow up the side of the building to provide window screens.

On Friday, we drove to Hsin-Yang-Pin Community College. The storm was at its wildest, with gusts of wind and rain. Defying the storm, many people crowded the paths through the new gardens where they are teaching organic gardening, nutrition and cooking. I have never had my photo taken so many times. The head teacher was a few steps ahead of me wherever I went, snapping photos in the rain! In their very attractive community hall, I gave another version of my intro to CSA talk, emphasizing what community organizations can do to provide support. The Director General of the Urban and Rural Planning Dept, Yung-Taan Lee, explained that he is hosting a series of speakers with hands-on experience. His department is working on a ten-year plan for Tao Yuan. The water supply is critical: there are 3000 ponds, built during the Japanese Colonial period (1895-1945). Each pond can irrigate 100 hectares, so the county is funding a series of projects to save them. The 2000 ponds in private hands are at risk of development for other purposes. He mentioned that Taiwan is not a member of the UN so must find other ways to be involved in the effort to stop global warming. The world knows about the Taiwan economic “miracle,” but it is urgent that the island also address issues of wind, water and soil.

In the greenhouse at Power Farm

Director Lee accompanied us on a tour of the Power Farm, the creation of Te Kueimr Huang. Located in a village in a more rural part of Tao Yuan County, the Power Farm is a remarkable project. Mr. Huang grows rice, involving the 600 children at the nearby school in planting, weeding and harvesting. They sell the 20,000 kilos of organic rice for 5 TD a kilo. Huang makes compost tea using bacillus subtilus, vermicompost, and his own soil mix of minerals, compost, and some sort of fiber. From the appearance of his plants, he has an excellent formula. He uses yellow sticky traps for pest control. He designed and constructed an original greenhouse – the cost is an affordable 10,000 TD (approx. $350 USD) enclosing 1000 square meters, space to produce enough food for a family. His land is next to one of the ponds, 10 hectares in size, 2 – 3 meters high, where he raises fish using natural methods with a harvest only every other year. He says renting the pond for commercial fish production results in pollution. A Water Association, a committee of local villagers, owns and maintains the pond and the path around it as a park and uses the farm as a center. Huang has a vision for an eco-village with a small income for each household. He and his wife served us Northern Hakka food – roselle (hibiscus family) red flowers, sticky rice balls stuffed with shrimp/onions/pork/mushrooms in soup with greens, bitter melon, and pickled pumpkin and plums. Meeting Huang, I felt I had finally encountered a representative of the great Chinese agricultural tradition I first read about in F.H. King’s Farmers of Forty Centuries: Organic Farming in China (1911).

My guides drove me to Taipei where on Saturday, a young woman named Zhi-Han, who is on the staff of the Community Empowering Society of Taiwan, picked me up at 9 am to take me to Fang-He Junior High School to give a talk to a class of people of various ages who are studying community organizing. The Community Empowering Society of Taiwan is a small ngo headed by Chih-Pen Yang with the mission of helping citizens organize to have a say in environmental issues and local development. Zhi-Han is in charge of typhoon recovery, working with 41 communities including the community college in Meinung and several indigenous groups in the East.

Greening the city is the main topic this year for the community organizing class that meets Saturday mornings. The instructor is an energetic man, Tung-Jye Wu, who seems to be one of the main instigators of the July 17 action I described earlier. TJ, as he is called, has a great sense of humor and greets the absurdities of life with a loud, spontaneous laugh that gets everyone laughing with him. He is the Executive Director of a small not-for profit named the Green Formosa Front. Their focus is the WTO, and climate change. I talked for half the class and the students asked questions for the rest of the time, a lively bunch. We ended with the obligatory group photo opportunity.

Then they took me to a small, but entirely organic farmers market tucked between two sky scrapers. We tasted some exquisite oolong tea – I am bringing some home. They introduced me to the male co-convener of the Taiwan Green Party. The organizer of this market, Zhi-Han later told me, is the “Rice Bomber.” In protest against Taiwan joining the WTO, 15 years ago, he placed little bombs with rice in them in a few government buildings. Someone later told me that these bombs were not even as powerful as a small fire cracker, but the Rice Bomber did 5 years in prison.

Next, we drove across the city – Taipei is truly impressive with a broad river down the middle- and up into the hills to another community college at Bei-tou, famous for its sulphur springs. For a smaller group that included 6 organic farmers, I gave another talk on CSA, this one more focused on how-to. There were fewer questions as the day was getting late and they wanted to show me the Bei-tou Farm – a spectacular series of terraces nestled among dense woods with a view of the city below. On terraces ranging in size from maybe 40 square feet to several hundred, they are growing vegetables and citrus trees. Amidst a swarm of mosquitoes (which luckily preferred Zhi-Han to me), the two women farmers led us up their winding path and told about their struggle to make enough money from their work. They are able to sell all their fruit at a stand below the farm where many tourists come to the national park and hot springs. They also deliver 5 weekly baskets of 7- 8 vegetables and fruit to people who pick up at the Community College. Their customers, mainly old ladies, pay at the end of each month. To communicate with these customers, they use the phone instead of the Internet. The value of the contents adds up to 400 TD based on market prices. A few other customers have asked for home delivery, but cannot pay more for it. The two farmers say they have limited production capacity so cannot supply many more shares. Both of these women married into the family that owned all this land for a century or so before it became a national park. They are allowed to continue living there and farming. Their husbands work at the farm part time and also work in construction.

Sunday was supposed to be my day of rest with a trip to the National Museum. Instead, Zhi-Han took me back up to Bei-tou to a class in tie dying organized by the Farmers Association. About 20 people, women, children and a couple of men were learning the art of tie-dying. The class met at a Buddhist temple built by the Japanese. The teachers were staff from the Farmers Association, a former farmer and a woman who still grows and sells vegetables and flowers, as well as teaching traditional crafts. The Farmers Association, which has 4 divisions – training, certification, promotion and insurance – includes 99% of the island’s farmers, and is organized by geographical area. The Taipei region has 9 sections. Zhi-Han did not know whether there is a unifying national leadership. Mr. Yang told me the staff person teaching this class is more liberal than most of the Association, which sounds like the Taiwanese version of the American Farm Bureau.

For my last day, we headed out earlier than usual to Tucheng Farm on the site of a former military base, a small rural oasis just beyond a highway and a busy metro stop. The base encompasses 96 hectares. There had been a plan to build a prison and a church wants to develop housing. Ren-Ji, a would-be farmer and organizer, hopes to save it as an eco-farm park. His vision is to recreate a village with organic farmers, using solar power and modern innovations – the opposite of a modern city – with an after school program for children. With the prison out of the picture, Ren-Ji and friends plan to reopen the farmers market although the ground is low and wet.

Within the boundaries of the base, the army still holds 27 hectares. 20 families also live there, with several well-developed market farms and a no-permit factory. Ren-Ji said 1/3 of the resident families like his idea for an eco-farm park, 1/3 want to sell out to developers and 1/3 are undecided. He wants to take it slowly and have a democratic process. Helen, a Taiwanese woman who has lived in Oregon for 30 years, and an American lawyer named Robin Winkler are among the volunteers involved in this project. Robin and the other members of his firm get weekly baskets of vegetables from the farm at the modest price of 250 TD a week, paying by the month after receipt of the produce. The farm also sells to assorted neighbors and has a booth at a traditional market where both farmers and hucksters sell. I saw a pond with geese, skillfully planted beds – about an acre – and 2 very well managed hoop houses with greens guarded by many fine spiders and pheromone traps. This land passed the government test as chemical free. They have not tried for organic certification yet. The heavy rains and wind of the typhoon, followed by high temperatures with continuing humidity, destroyed a lot of the uncovered greens and turnips.

We walked through an area where they are growing coffee and tasted some – strong, French style. On land that belongs to the family of Li-Lan Liu, a teacher who is running for the office of village chief in the November elections (she is co-convenor of the Green Party with the man I met at the organic farmers market) they have started their cooperative eco-farm park – it is 3 months old. They have built a stage, gardens with herbs, and a hoop house with attached kitchen as a social center. I saw flowers, bananas, and roselle flowers growing. They served me another great meal of food mainly from this farm – 2 dishes with bamboo shoots, 2 plates of different greens – sweet potato greens, spinach, rice, fish, pomelos. In one of the abandoned army bunkers, they plan to put a museum. The two farm women from Bei-Tou arrived and I gave my intro to CSA talk again. We had a long discussion about how to get started with CSA. Robin and Helen declared they would relaunch their CSA with payment up front and a work requirement.

Yi-Zih, who had stayed in Meinung to attend classes, joined us at Tucheng. With Zhi-Han, we went to a traditional tea house in the oldest section of Taipei where they process and sell tea. After a brisk walk down the oldest streets, TJ and Yang took us to dinner in Bei-tou where they had arranged for Yi-Zih and me to spend my last night in a hotel so I could experience the sulfur springs. (I did not tell them that my every shower in Wayne County is in sulphur water…) At dinner, I asked about their two ngos. Each has members (only 60 – 100) and a board. Funding comes from very small dues and from projects, many funded by the government. Things were better under the previous administration which was less enamoured of the WTO and development. The Green Formosa Front is an IFOAM member. The two men, slightly older, seasoned activists, and the two young women, their paths not yet clear but with an instinct for things natural, treated me as an honored guest. I hope Taiwan agricultural history will repay richly their generosity to me.

The assembled at Hsin Pin Community College Farm

Traveling from Rochester to Taiwan and back gave me a lot to think about. From a city struggling with population loss due to the flight of industry, I flew to an island that has developed faster than almost anywhere in the world. People with deep rural traditions are reawakening to the urgency of protecting their land, a struggle we share. The CSAs I observed are hesitant beginnings, but the time appears ripe for a full flowering. Tiki (Chinese for cooperation, close to “Teikei,” the Japanese term for CSA) could sweep the island as an antidote to the excesses of industrialization and globally sourced food. The Taiwan Rural Front plans to return after the elections in late November with the rice grown from the plants of their July 17 protest. They will use the streets in front of the Presidential Palace to dry the rice and then sell it to raise money to continue their efforts. At 6 am, as I was about to step on the bus for the airport for the 25-hour trip home, Mr. Yang, of the Community Empowering Society, suddenly appeared bringing me a Taiwan Rural Front t-shirt. With that kind of energy and dedication, rural organizing in Taiwan has a promising future!

*The publisher of the Chinese edition of Sharing the Harvest is Business Weekly Publications, Inc. It’s a branch of Cite Publishing Ltd., which is one of the most biggest publishers in Taiwan.
The editor is Hsi-Yin, Chen. Her e-mail add: [email protected]

The translating group:
李宜澤 Yi-Tze, Lee:Foreword、Acknowledgment、Introduction、CH1、2、6、 Afterword許敏鳳 Min-Fong, Hsu:CH9、10
林震洋 Huck, Chen-Yang, Lin: CH3、4、5、11蔡晏霖 Yen-ling, Tsai:CH7、8、12呂欣怡 Hsin-Yi, Lu:CH13、14、15、16、17、18
劉逸姿 Yi-Zih, Liu:CH19、22
林大有 Ta-Yu, Lin:CH21、23、24

All photos courtesy of Elizabeth Henderson.

Sharing the Harvest is available now.

Publishers Weekly reviews The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Jamie Court’s The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell received the following web-exclusive review from Publisher’s Weekly on Monday. Have a look!

Americans angry about the state of their government or the fallout from the BP oil disaster might find in Court’s persuasive manifesto a cause for action. As the president of Consumer Watchdog, the California-based consumer advocacy organization, Court has gone toe-to-toe with powerful politicians and corporations–and won. Without straying far from Advocacy 101, Court provides a how-to on taking a stand and making a difference. Following “10 rules of Populist Power,” “Rousing Public Opinion in a New Media Age” explores the use of the Internet to rally and mobilize support. For instance, MoveOn, with over five million members, has become “one of the most successful Internet-based political groups in America.” Court also outlines how to build a “Populist 2.0 Platform” using e-advocacy, blogging, social media, and other technologies. Other chapters serve as case studies for taking on energy companies (the author was once recruited into a California task force on gas prices), Wall Street, and Governor Schwarzenegger (“Taming Arnold”). With great accessibility and a fired-up attitude, Court brings his lessons in empowerment to the people. (Sept.)

Read the original review at PublishersWeekly.com.

Jamie Court’s The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell is available now.

Bob Cavnar: BP’s “Failure to Learn”

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Yesterday, National Academy of Engineering committee chair Donald Winter submitted preliminary findings about BP’s Macondo well blowout to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  Among other criticisms of BP’s and Transocean’s management (or lack thereof) that led up to the April 20 catastrophe, Winter characterized as a key finding the companies’ “lack of a suitable approach for anticipating and managing the inherent risks, uncertainties, and dangers associated with deepwater drilling operations and a failure to learn from previous near misses.

Though only preliminary, the report took issue with a number of BP’s conclusions in its own report issued in September that attempted to spread blame over as many parties as possible, ignoring critical management decisions that it’s own people had made that contributed to the blowout.  Specifically, the report does point out that installing a long string, which runs from the top of the well all the way to bottom, rather than the safer liner that only covers the open hole and provides an additional downhole barrier and is better risk management.  It seems that everyone but BP now agrees with that finding.

Also contrary to BP’s conclusions that the blowout went down the outside of the casing, through bad cement, up through the shoe track through different bad cement, through two float valves and up the well, the committee said that we may never know the true path of the blowout since all of those elements are forever buried under thousand of feet of cement.  We all know that BP’s conclusion just coincidently happen to follow the path that spread the blame to as many parties as possible including Halliburton, Weatherford, and Transocean rather than themselves for high risk design.  Apparently, the Academy committee is not so convinced.

A common theme in the report was that poor decision making, complacency, over confidence, and the lack of checks and balances in BP’s organization created an environment where rig and onshore managers failed to recognize the signs of an increasingly dangerous well.  Failure to recognize the flow of hydrocarbons into the well above the blowout preventer was the fatal mistake, but many ingrained organizational factors contributed to that blindness.  Hurrying to get off the well, too many decision makers, and simultaneous complex operations all contributed.  As we have also pointed out, the committee has concluded that changing rig managers in the middle of these operations contributed to the confusion prior to the blowout.

We will continue to follow this story as the accident investigations continue. The forensic evidence from the blowout preventer will be key; that is, if they ever get around to testing the damn thing rather than stupidly letting it rust away sitting on the dock in Louisiana while lawyers argue over who’s going to test it.  That’s a developing story that we are also following.

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

Bob Cavnar is the author of Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, available now.

Carol Deppe: Bankers, Large and Small

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

During the height of the banking crisis, my bank, Citizen’s Bank in Corvallis, Oregon, dropped us customers an e-mail. It was written in bankerese, but what it meant was: “Hey, with respect to all that sub-prime loan mess—those loans never made any sense to us. We don’t have a horse in that race.” Citizen’s Bank is a small locally-owned bank.

Upon learning of the mega-bankers’ multimillion-dollar bonuses they received for destroying the economy for the rest of us while absorbing billions in taxpayer bailouts, in a fit of serious irritation, I wrote some song lyrics. I had just listened to a documentary about Woody Guthrie, so my lyrics came out sung (roughly) to the tune of the Woody Guthrie song “I ain’t got no home.” This tune is roughly the same as A.P Carter’s song “Can’t feel at Home,” which is about the same as Albert E. Brumley’s song “This world is not my home,” all of which are essentially the same as a tune that appeared in print in a hymnal in 1909 and which is probably even older in oral tradition. I consider the tune public domain. (Guthrie copyrighted it, but at best that copyright covers only his specific version, I believe.)

As for my lyrics: I hereby grant permission to any and all to sing or record these lyrics for all purposes noncommercial or commercial, as long as the lyrics are attributed to me and are not altered, and a mention or link is provided to CarolDeppe.com. May this song go forth into the world and help in the fight for justice.

Bankers
(by Carol Deppe; copyright 2010)

I’ve been busted down to nothing. Got no money. Lost my job.
I’ve been slammed into the gutter, just another broken sod.
My taxes saved the bankers, but they kicked me out the door.
And I don’t have a home in this world anymore.

Every banker owns a senator, a senator or two.
Every senator’s been bought, bought and paid for through and through.
So there’s bailouts for the bankers but there’s no jobs for the poor.
And I don’t have a job in this world anymore.

The credit card companies make the rules to break your back.
Then they change the rules and trick you, until you’re busted flat.
They’re evil and despicable, dishonest to the core.
And I don’t have any credit in this world anymore.

Goldman Sachs invented funny money and laughed when it went south.
Now the whole rest of the world is living hand to mouth.
Goldman Sachs gets even richer. It sure does make me sore.
And there isn’t any justice in this world anymore.

We’ve been pushed beyond endurance, and one day we will rebel.
We’ll grab those greedy bankers, and we’ll really give them hell.
We will take back our nation. You will hear a mighty roar.
And we won’t be slaves to bankers in this world anymore.

Shortly after composing “Bankers,” I went to Citizen’s Bank. Barb, one of the tellers, greeted me by name and asked me how I was coming with The Book (The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-reliance in Uncertain Times). (Now available.)

“Great!” I said. “I just got word this morning that the manuscript has been officially accepted!”

Barb cheered. “That must be quite a relief!” she said.

“It sure is!” I said. “I can’t believe what I got away with! Chapters on climate change, diet, and poultry, all in a gardening book! And it’s long. 180,000 words. They didn’t even object to my kiddie song about ducks, ‘It’s Great to be a Ducky in the Rain.’ They accepted all 180,000 words!”

A week later I got a card from Citizen’s Bank congratulating me on having my book officially accepted. It was signed by everyone in the bank. I like my books big but my banks small.

Read the original article on CarolDeppe.com

Carol Deppe is the author of The Resilient Gardener, available now.

HOLIDAY SALE: SAVE 35% WITH DISCOUNT CODE WE2010!

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

A SPECIAL OFFER FOR OUR LOYAL CUSTOMERS…

Order now through December 31st and save 35% off your entire purchase – use coupon code WE2010 at check-out. Visit our bookstore now to get started!

The holiday season has arrived, and Chelsea Green is the perfect place to stock up on inspiring and educational gifts for your friends and family! We’re offering huge savings to help you spread the holiday cheer. With the right gift for everyone on your list – from political activists and gardeners to entrepreneurs, philosophers and cooks – we’ve got your seasonal shopping covered.

Free shipping on orders over $100!

Sandor Ellix Katz in The New Yorker!

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

What a thrill to see our beloved fermentation expert, Sandor Ellix Katz, profiled in depth in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine!

Sandor, a self-taught fermentation experimentalist, is the author of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (widely considered an indispensable text for anyone interested in making fermented foods at home), and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements, and is the star of a new DVD, Fermentation Workshop with Sandor Ellix Katz.

Though we fully encourage going out and purchasing a copy of the magazine, current New Yorker subscribers can access the full article about Sandor online here (non-subscribers get a tantalizing abstract).

Be sure, also, to check out the online-only podcast interview with the story’s reporter, Burkhard Bilger, for his personal thoughts on Sandor Ellix Katz, fermented foods, and the underground food movement overall.

Wild Fermentation, The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved, and Fermentation Workshop with Sandor Ellix Katz are all available now. 

A “Fluoride” Cake for Dr. Paul Connett

Monday, November 15th, 2010

At a speaking event at Brave New Books in Austin, Texas on November 6th, Dr. Paul Connett got a sweet surprise related to his book, The Case Against Fluoride: How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There.

The folks at Fluoride Free Austin presented Connett with a huge cake that displayed the book’s cover image in impressive detail.

Dr. Connett’s appearance at Brave New Books was part of a multi-day tour earlier this month to promote The Case Against Fluoride in Austin. The tour included two University campus presentations, several media interviews and book signings, and an appearance before the Austin City Council.

Here’s a close-up image of Dr. Connett and the cake:

Case Against Fluoride Cake

Dr. Paul Connett is co-author, with James Beck and Spedding Micklem, of The Case Against Fluoride.

Joan Dye Gussow in the Denver Post

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The following article featuring Joan Dye Gussow, author of Growing, Older and This Organic Life, appeared on Saturday, November 13th in the Denver Post.

Local-food guru Joan Dye Gussow offers nutrition advice for the ages
By Susan Clotfelter

If you hope to stride into your ninth decade with strength, humor and a weeder in one hand, Joan Dye Gussow is your role model.

Through her first two books, “This Organic Life” and “The Feeding Web,” Gussow, 81, has been one of the pioneers of the local-food movement. Such foodie icons as Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver and Alice Waters call her an inspiration.

Gussow’s latest book, “Growing, Older” ($17.95, Chelsea Green), starts from an unlikely place: The disconcerting discovery that her life hasn’t been devastated by her artist husband’s sudden death from cancer in 1997. From there, she looks back, and forward, on her life as a daughter, a mother, a scholar and, especially, a gardener: Gussow grows all the vegetables she eats, year-round, on the banks of the often- flooding Hudson River in Piermont, N.Y.

Not everyone can do that, of course, but Gussow’s voice as she reports on life, food and the ironies of modern culture make her the kind of gardening instigator anyone can enjoy: acerbic, inspiring and definitely down-to-earth.

The Denver Post recently spoke by telephone with Gussow, a professor emerita of Columbia University Teachers College’s nutrition department.

Q: What’s going on in your garden right now?

A: Well, I’ve got lots of brussels sprouts coming on, lots of collards, lots of chard; the chard just went crazy this year. I’ve got a few tomatoes just hanging on, though I picked almost everything two days ago because we were supposed to have a freeze. I cooked them all up yesterday. And this morning I picked raspberries to put on my breakfast cereal. I have these heritage raspberries and they’re fall-bearing. And I just think that’s the most decadent thing in the world, to have raspberries in November.

I have some of these what I call karmic plants. You know, mache, chicory, and I’ve got miner’s lettuce coming up everywhere. It was Eliot Coleman who told me that mache is actually a winter annual. It grows in kind of a rosette, maybe an inch or two across, and then in spring it goes to seed. And I have lots of rocket, you know, arugula.

Q: So you’re growing salad-y things through the winter?

A: I have it pretty well if I want it. Of course, my mother’s idea of salad, since I didn’t like her version of Thousand Island dressing, which she made with ketchup, was to put lemon and sugar on my quarter of an iceberg lettuce. So I never really developed a lust for salad — not like people who think they haven’t had dinner without one. And nutritionally, it’s not very valuable. It’s the crunch that people crave.

Read the full original article at DenverPost.com.

Joan Dye Gussow is the author of Growing, Older and This Organic Life, both available now.

Robert Kuttner on Democracy Now!

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Robert Kuttner, author of A Presidency In Peril and Obama’s Challenge, was interviewed on Democracy Now! on Thursday, November 11th about Obama’s Deficit Commission and its proposals for reducing the nation’s debt.

The Commission recommended recently that the retirement age be raised to 69 by the year 2075, that some middle class tax breaks be discontinued, and that certain limits on Medicare benefits be imposed as well.

Kuttner expressed disgust at these proposals, saying “The economics are totally perverse” and arguing that we cannot climb out of this depression by focusing on austerity alone. Watch the video interview below for more information.

Robert Kuttner is the author of A Presidency In Peril and Obama’s Challenge, available now.

Home Cheesemaking – an excerpt from The Farmstead Creamery Advisor

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

The following is excerpted from the first chapter of  The Farmstead Creamery Advisor: The Complete Guide to Building and Running a Small, Farm-Based Cheese Business by Gianaclis Caldwell. It appeared originally on the web at MotherEarthNews.com.

The United States is experiencing a food-quality renaissance. An increase in the number of farmers markets and “eat local” campaigns, a growing awareness of food quality, and a desire to appreciate the story behind the product are all influencing the way Americans are buying and consuming food. While we are still largely a nation of fast-food addicts and all-you-can-eat buffet aficionados, more and more people today are starting to care less about the size of the serving than about the quality and story of its ingredients. This awakening is not limited to those who can afford the luxury of finer foods. It extends — and indeed originates — from a basic need to reconnect with health, history, and the awareness of nutrition’s role in our very existence.

The History of Cheesemaking in the United States

Bernard Nantet, in his book Cheeses of the World, maintains that the United States, unlike Europe, does not have a strong tradition of artisan cheesemaking. It could be argued that it is this lack of an embedded culinary-cultural background, in part, that allowed the unfettered mechanization that all but extinguished the manufacture of handcrafted artisan cheeses in the U.S. by the mid-1900s. The current revival, which began in earnest in the late 1970s, occurred thanks to a combination of factors that increased the American public’s appreciation not only of food but also of the way of life that the farmer-cheesemaker leads.

Rise and Fall

Although goats, sheep and cows traveled to the Antilles (Caribbean islands) with Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s, it wasn’t until the early 1600s that milk cows — and along with them cheesemaking — arrived at European settlements on the shores of what is now the United States of America. Cheeses were part of the provisions stocked on board ships traveling to the Americas, and as with all foods packed for the difficult voyages, cheese was a sustenance food, not a luxury. Cheese, both on board the ships and in the new settlements, was simply the best way to preserve excess milk and extend the availability of a valuable food.

European immigrants adapted to the hardships of life in the New World while continuing to practice the food traditions of their native cultures. Over time and through continued waves of immigration, cheese produced in America gradually began to reflect regional influences: In the northeast part of the country, an English influence created an early Cheddar industry; in Wisconsin, Swiss and Danish traditions included Gouda and alpine styles; and in California and the West, Spanish and French cultures influenced the kinds of cheeses made there, including the development of an American original, Monterey Jack cheese. By the mid-1800s most rural families had a milk cow or goats for dairy, meat and byproducts. Cheese was produced on the farm or at home, and cheesemaking was a normal part of a homemaker’s repertoire. The seeds of change, for all of agriculture and eating, came with the American Industrial Revolution in the 1850s. Mechanization increased the ability of farmers to grow more feed, raise more animals, and subsequently harvest ever-increasing quantities of milk. For the cheesemaker, equipment could be manufactured to process larger volumes of milk into cheese to feed a growing population.

In the 1840s, a Wisconsin man named James Picket is believed to have been the first farmer to make cheese from the milk of not only his own animals, but a neighbor’s cows as well. This new concept in dairying was taken a step further in 1851 when the first “modern” cheese factory was built by Jesse Williams in Oneida, N.Y. Williams’s factory is believed to have been the first cheese plant to pool milk from multiple farmers and complete the entire process of cheesemaking in a commercial facility. Other factories quickly sprang up throughout the country. By 1880 there were 3,923 factories nationwide, with a production volume of 216 million pounds of cheese. The family cow was on her way out of the picture.

By the 1920s cheese production had reached 418 million pounds, with most of this still occurring in what would be, by today’s standards, small to moderate-size facilities processing milk from only local dairies as well as their own milk. By the 1930s, cow’s milk cheeses similar in style to most major European cheeses were being made at the industrial level.

The early part of the 1900s also saw the birth and infancy of what would become the modern-day, super-mega, one-stop grocery store. Previously, shopping had been done at specialized stores — the butcher, the baker, the green grocer. But by 1910, many stores began carrying multiple specialty foods under one roof. This consolidation of products led to the building of ever-larger stores, the development of chain stores, and the need for centralized distribution. The competitive drive to promote the cheapness and value of one supermarket over another quickly followed. These factors all contributed to the impetus to produce cheese in greater volume and in the most cost-effective manner possible. Americans began to compromise quality for pocketbook “value.”

The Great Depression of the 1930s brought further woes to the small producer. While many small dairies folded under the economic strain, others survived, in part thanks to the formation of cooperatives, as well as the intervention of creameries that refocused their production to purchase their fluid milk from these struggling small farms.

Following on the unfortunate heels of the Depression, World War II furthered labor and economic issues by its upheaval of the work force (men left farms and factories for the battlefield) and the necessary redistribution of resources and supplies to the war effort. When the conflict finally ended, wartime technological advances transitioned to civilian-oriented purposes. The increased technology available to manufacturing, combined with the demand for cheaper and more modern products (often seen as superior by a population starved for finer goods at an affordable price), spelled trouble for the small handmade-cheese producer.

Revival

The re-emergence of the small cheesemaker began in earnest in the 1980s. As with the decline of handmade cheese, the renaissance occurred in response to the influence of movements and trends that occurred in the 20th century. Hippies, back-to-the-landers and gourmets prepared the way for the renaissance of handmade cheese.

Occurring almost simultaneously, and running different but overlapping courses, the hippie and the back-to-the-land movements both peaked in the 1960s through the mid-1970s. Their roots are vastly different, but their influence on the awareness of food quality and its effects on health and happiness are similar. The hippie movement brought an interest in natural and “health” foods, while the back-to-the-landers sought a return to the agrarian and self-sufficient lifestyle of their forebears.

The back-to-the-land movement saw the return of many urban and suburban dwellers to the countryside. The concept of homesteading brought renewed interest in the family milk cow and dairy goat. Beginning in the 1970s — and still going strong today — the magazine MOTHER EARTH NEWS and the Foxfire book series provided guidelines and inspiration for rural living and self-reliance. For many people, the homesteading spirit and lifestyle proved to be a transient state, after the hardships and reality of “living off the land” hit home. But even those who went back to more modern lifestyles did not lose the appreciation for that way of life.

While some parts of our society were interested in reconnecting to the land, a more traditional way of life, and the quality of food that lifestyle offered, another segment was developing a culinary consciousness that included an expanding appreciation of food flavors and quality. Increased and easier travel to Europe, especially France, exposed many to flavors and cooking that had been ignored, for the most part, in the modern American diet. This appreciation was helped immensely by the work of such people as Julia Child, whose book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and television show The French Chef helped many mainstream Americans develop a new interest in the quality of their food, and Alice Waters, chef and proprietor of the Berkeley, Calif., restaurant Chez Panisse and a leader in the Slow Food movement.

As all of these influences converged, a market for artisan, American-made cheese began to develop and a new wave of pioneers rose to meet the call. Cheesemakers, authors, educators and visionaries have all had a hand in the current success of handmade cheese in the United States. Here are just a few of these pioneering farmstead cheesemaker innovators and leaders:

  • Laura Chenel, Laura Chenel’s Chèvre, California, 1979
  • Sally Jackson, Sally Jackson Cheese, Washington, 1979
  • Allison Hooper and Bob Reese, Vermont Butter and Cheese, Vermont, 1984
  • Judy Schad, Capriole, Indiana, 1988
  • Jennifer Bice, Redwood Hill Farm, California, 1988

(Of these, Capriole and Sally Jackson remain farmstead operations.)

Authors such as Laura Werlin (who has been writing about cheese in articles and books since 1999) and Max McCalman (whose books and speaking engagements have helped elevate the role of cheese in fine dining and the status of cheesemongers and maître fromagers) have greatly increased the public’s awareness and appreciation of cheese, as well as its makers. Educators and visionaries include Ricki Carroll, author and co-founder of New England Cheesemaking Supply in 1978, who continues to provide supplies and education to cheesemakers — home, hobby and professionals alike; Frank V. Kosikowski, founder of the American Cheese Society in 1983 and author of Cheese and Fermented Milk Foods; and Paul Kindstedt, co-author with the Vermont Cheese Council of American Farmstead Cheese and an original member of ACS. It is thanks to these leaders, as well as many others, that the way has been paved for the many new cheesemakers who are experiencing such success today.

Defining the Small, Farmstead Cheesemaker

Now that you know some history of farmstead cheesemaking in the United States, let’s talk about some definitions, motivations and qualifications.

The term “artisan” applies to any product (food or otherwise) that is made in limited quantities by a skilled craftsman, usually by hand. The term is not legally defined for business use, however, and is becoming another buzzword that’s meaning is being diluted by overuse. The American Cheese Society does define “artisan” when applied to cheese. “Artisan” and “artisanal” (interchangeable terms) imply — but do not guarantee — high-quality products!

“Farmstead” is a term applied to cheese made only from the milk of the farmer’s own animals. The term “farmhouse” is sometimes used interchangeably, but it is not as common. The production size of a farmstead cheese business is not limited or defined. In consumers’ minds, however, it is often assumed that the facility is small and not highly mechanized. The farmstead cheesemaker is usually the smallest size of cheese producer, but not always. One very successful farmstead creamery in Wisconsin milks (according to its website) a herd of 950 Holstein cows, whose production level allows it to make approximately 3 million pounds of cheese annually. Many other existing cow dairies have value-added cheese plants in which they produce their own farmstead cheese. Cheese is saving many a family farm in this fashion.

Another term you will see is “specialty” cheese. Specialty cheese is produced by large-scale, industrial cheese companies as a value-added product of higher quality and in a limited quantity as compared with their other cheese products. According to the Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute, a specialty cheese cannot exceed an annual nationwide volume of more than 40 million — yes, million! — pounds. Both artisan and farmstead cheeses sometimes fall under the category of specialty cheese when being discussed in industry trade papers.

The Motivation Behind Becoming a Farmstead Cheesemaker

Farmstead cheesemakers are usually a unique blend of farmer, artist, animal lover, independent spirit and masochistic laborer. Very few choose this life with monetary goals as their No. 1 motivator. Instead, it is a passion for the animals and for a way of life, the desire to create a value-added product on an existing farm, or the desire to leave a prior profession or lifestyle for the pursuit of a more rural way of living. There are also people who enter the business with purely entrepreneurial motivations — those for whom the growing prestige and market potential of artisan cheese is the magnet (not unlike the motivation that draws some to plant a vineyard or build a winery). But, for the most part, the farmstead cheesemaker is first and foremost a herdsman. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for building a farmstead creamery, along with the assets and pitfalls that each motivation brings to the mix.

Hobby to Profession

Those who start out with a couple of dairy goats or a milk cow to feed a growing family, or a desire to live a more self-sustaining lifestyle, often find themselves with more milk than they know what to do with. Learning to make cheese is a logical progression that becomes a gratifying hobby for many. The decision to “go pro” is sometimes seen as an elaboration of the hobby, when in fact it is truly a full-fledged transformation. The change from avocation to profession brings new dimensions that can wear out even the most passionate hobbyist.

Assets: Existing animal management skills, awareness of the rigors of farm life, some cheesemaking skills.

Pitfalls: Often a lack of business management training, possible lack of investment capital.

Value-Added

For many dairy people, adding a cheese facility to the dairy farm provides a value-added product that increases the prospects for survival of the farm. The growing popularity and public perception of cheese is helping retain and bring back generations of family that may not have previously stayed on the farm.

Assets: Existing animal management skills, awareness of the rigors of farm life, existing business structure, existing infrastructure (buildings, systems, etc.).

Pitfalls: Possible lack of cheesemaking skills and a lack of time to leave the farm for training.

Career and Lifestyle Change

Whether a long-contemplated dream or a recent revelation, more and more people are launching farmstead creameries after leaving their previous careers. Often these careers had little to do with the day-to-day operations of a farm, but maybe they brought them into contact with fine cheese or a rural, agrarian way of living. As often as not, the career change is a return to roots or a family history after experiencing the “regular” work world.

Assets: Possible business skills, investment capital and/or a retirement income.

Pitfalls: Possible lack of animal experience, possible lack of physical stamina related to age at retirement.

The Entrepreneur

For investors building an artisan cheese business, the need for a reliable source of the highest-quality milk often leads them to the farmstead solution. The size and scale of these operations is medium to large. Usually both herd managers and cheesemakers are employed to handle these parts of the operation.

Assets: Financial resources, business skills.

Pitfalls: Lack of animal management expertise. (Cheesemaking experience, I believe, is more readily learned than animal husbandry — educational opportunities and professional expertise are easier to find than an in-depth animal husbandry education.)

The Hybrid

Many farmstead cheesemakers are a mixture of some or all of the above motivations. People entering the industry with a varied background and multiple inspirations often bring a mix of qualifications that promote success in ways that cannot be anticipated by simply analyzing their credentials. There is no way to accurately categorize this type of person, but it is still important for them to attempt to analyze their skill set and job suitability based on information gained while researching the industry.

Do You Really Want to Do This?

It seems like being a farmstead cheesemaker would be fun and fulfilling, but after you take a good, hard look at the realities of setting up and running your own creamery, you need to decide whether it is the right move for you. Here is a little quiz, devised with the help of cheesemakers from across the country, to help set the stage for what you will be in for should you bravely go where others have gone before (despite their warnings!).

Let’s look at these questions in more detail. If it seems a bit discouraging, try to remember that many of these issues will not seem as daunting after you learn more. The knowledge and skills you will gain by reading this book and educating yourself through other opportunities will give you the tools you need to deal with each of these issues, should you choose to become a farmstead cheesemaker.

Are the hours really that bad?

There are times throughout the year when most farmstead cheesemakers find themselves going to bed just about in time to get up again. Kidding/lambing/calving season is a prime example — and this is also the time that most farmers markets start their season. Milk is flowing, cheese must be made, and babies won’t wait for your bedtime schedule. It is often nonstop work, and you feel like you’re never caught up. When you choose to become a farmstead cheesemaker, you are choosing not just a job, but a way of life. If you have a spouse or partner, you will need to consider very carefully whether this way of life will be fulfilling for both of you, together.

How about a good head for business?

When the hobby farmer-cheesemaker turns pro, everything changes. In reality you are now operating two businesses — a dairy farm and a cheese business. Any inefficiency in either aspect will likely evolve into a liability, both financially and, in the end, emotionally. If you know you will not be able to develop a sound business plan, maintain accurate and up-to-date financial books, complete invoices, and follow up on orders and billing — and you still want to go into the business — then consider taking classes, or even hiring a bookkeeper and office manager.

Why would I need to be creative or artistic?

Remember there is “art” in “artisan.” Not only will being creative give you an edge in producing visually appealing products, but it will help with designing packaging, labels and promotional materials. As the number of producers grows and the volume of farmstead cheeses increases, it will be the little things, such as irresistible packaging and mouthwatering product presentation, that will help give your business an edge.

Is there really a lot of dishwashing and repetitive labor?

Oh my, yes! After all of your cheese recipes have been refined and perfected, it becomes the great cheesemaker’s job to keep making them, as identically as possible, over and over. Keeping the passion and inspiration evident in each batch and wheel can become a challenge. As to dishwashing, there is a standard saying that cheesemaking is 90 percent cleanup. Sanitation and cleanliness in a licensed creamery cannot be treated casually. It is not in the least bit glamorous or inspiring, but you will spend a good deal of time doing it.

How could I be too tired to enjoy my animals?

For most farmstead cheesemakers, the animals are usually the reason they make cheese, not the other way around. After you are licensed, however, selling your cheese becomes a priority that can take away time with the animals and drain your patience and energy to deal with their needs, as well as the challenges that caring for them brings. It’s not hard for the pressures of the cheesemaking side to leach the joy out of the original reason for starting the business — the animals.

What kinds of problems can crop up?

The farmstead creamery, no matter how well-administered, will face an ever-changing set of challenges. Dealing with equipment failure that leads to lost production or lost product; animal health issues that lead to lost milk, animal deaths and culling decisions; and the possibility of liability lawsuits, product recall and inspection violations — all of these and more bring a facet to the lifestyle that can be unduly stressful. To be successful, you must be prepared to face these challenges without letting them overwhelm you.

What about money?

Even if your cheese sells at the high end of the price spectrum, the number of hours you will work to create that product could mean that your average income will be somewhere below minimum wage. I am not kidding. If you do not have the investment capital to survive the first few years or another source of income to make ends meet, then you would be wise to reconsider starting a cheesemaking business (or any small business, for that matter). Even after several good years, you will probably not become wealthy making cheese — but you will have a priceless quality of life and hopefully be able to pay the bills!

Some of these questions may seem extreme, but the reality of the lifestyle of a farmstead cheesemaker is at times very difficult and intense. If you answered yes, even if it was a somewhat reluctant affirmative, to all of the questions in the quiz, then you are quite likely well-suited to the profession of farmstead cheesemaker. But if you have any hesitation in embracing these conditions as a huge part of your life, then I would encourage you to enjoy this book, tour cheese farms, eat farmstead cheese, make your own cheese at home — as a hobby — and have a life!

Learning the Craft

So where do you learn how to make cheese? Most start learning when inundated with pails and pails of milk — in other words, out of necessity. But when the hobby is about to become a profession, other resources should be explored. Learning the art of cheesemaking — as well as the science and safety behind the process — through experienced teachers will help ensure your success as a business.

There are several venues in which to learn both the art and the science of cheesemaking:

  • Books, Internet
  • University short courses
  • Private workshops and classes given by cheesemakers and educators
  • Apprenticeship/internship programs at working farmstead creameries
  • Traveling to other countries with strong cheesemaking traditions to research traditional practices

In most states, a business can be a licensed cheesemaking facility without the proprietor having special training as a cheesemaker, but in some there are standardized requirements. For example, in order to obtain a cheesemaker license in the state of Wisconsin, special training regulations apply, including up to 18 months of on-the-job work as a cheesemaker assistant. Be sure to investigate your state’s laws in this regard.

Many cheesemakers continually seek to expand their knowledge and mastery of the craft long after obtaining a license. Entering competitions, seeking technical reviews of their cheese, taking courses, subscribing to professional publications, and communing with other cheesemakers are all viable routes for continuing education. Keeping your knowledge expanding and your awareness of the process growing will help ensure the quality of your products as well as your own personal and professional gratification.

Being a part of a growing culinary tradition is exciting! Thanks to the perseverance of a handful of America’s original artisan cheesemaking companies, the groundbreaking forays of the cheesemaker pioneers of the artisan revival, and the increased awareness and admiration of the life of the small farmer, it is now easier than ever to build a thriving farmstead cheese business.

Read the original excerpt on MotherEarthNews.com.

Gianaclis Caldwell is the author of The Farmstead Creamery Advisor, available now.


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